WORDS: Dominic Valvona/Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea

Self-promotional time now as the Monolith Cocktail celebrates the release of our very own Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s long awaited album partnership with 20th Century Tokyo Princess’s guitarist/singer Ted Clark: conveniently entitled Bordello & Clark.

Joining the blog a few years back with his own reviews column the erstwhile malcontent Brian Shea is the defacto leader of the lo fi, still believing in the power of rock ‘n’ roll, family band, The Bordellos, but also releases various humdrum aphorism’s under his own name. After various travails and hold-ups, the Think Like A Key label has somehow ended up releasing the much-delayed communion between the two nostalgically melancholy artists. I say nostalgic, but not in the watery-eyed sense of missed opportunity, rather disgruntled at how the 21st century has sucked out all the joy, muthafuckerness and humour of rock ‘n’ roll; leaving nothing but a pale imitation or join the dots karaoke pastiches. For this is a wistful contrary delivered songbook of obscured romanticisms, lost love, and the idiosyncratic measuring of time passing by; whether that’s through the lens of Brian’s overgrown garden of metaphors or the bygone kettle whistled tours of rock’s back pages and famous sites (‘Memories Of Denmark Street’) and the straggles of becoming a famous rock star.

Making Sparklehorse sound like a flash git, accompanied by ELO, the lo fi in this partnership’s observational love letters is about as sparse and minimal as it can get. Except that is for the Mekons spaghetti western like homage to The Wedding Present’s stalwart David Gedge, which seems a big score in comparison: a wistful one at that.

The ‘Mersey Beat’ sound is wallowed in the waters of Joe Meek’s cellar for the jingle-jangle sound of a past age; a mindset that rambles through the broken promises of memorabilia, the 2i’s café’s jukebox and a pile of C86 era tapes. This is a conjuncture in which you hear how the J&MC may have sounded with Spaceman 3 era Jason Pierce fronting it, where Del Shannon met Greg Boring decided to hang out together. This is a reimagined TOTP’s slot that drove The Bordellos and 20th Century Pop Princess to the topper most top of the pop charts. An album of such brilliant lyrical sadness and irony that yearns for the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll and glory of what could have been if the likes of Spotify and their ilk hadn’t been invented, and music really meant something: nothing less than a complete absorption.

Borrowing some familiar riffs from the 60s garage, post-punk, ramshackle outsider music, Atlantic Crossing brings two distinct yet wholly congruous lo fi seers together on a mostly magic album of loss and longing that channels the spirit of a bygone age.

We asked Brian to guide us track-by-track through the new album, which was released on the 24th September 2021.

Jingle Jangle is a song of remembering your childhood and all the innocence that goes with it, mixed with memories of old friends and lovers that you no longer see, and an ideal way to kick off an album with songs filled with regrets, hopes, and love lost and found.

Memories of Denmark St is what it says on the tin. A song about memories of holidaying in London with an old girlfriend, looking at the guitars you want but cannot afford, dreaming, thinking it is only a matter of time that some record company will snap you and make you a star. “I wanted a Gretsch, I wanted a vox, I wanted to be on Top Of The Pops” could well be the most heartbreakingly honest line I’ve ever written. This album is full of heartbreak and lost love and unfulfilled dreams and probably the album with most self-biographic songs I have released.

The Girl with Cadbury Purple Hair. I saw a girl when I was sat on the bus out of the window and she looked like she owned the world; she looked like the most self-confident person I have ever seen. She was in her late teens, had charity store clothes and had Cadbury Purple Hair, and radiated sunshine from her being. I only saw her for about thirty seconds and not seen her since. Maybe she was just a brief daydream and I imagined her? So I wrote a song of sex, lust, hope, and the magic of being young based around the sighting of this super being. Ted (Clark) did a fucking amazing job on this song making it sound like Marc Bolan preening himself in the mirror 

Sunshine Rain Girl. A song about being in love with someone with problems and those problems bringing bigger problems, but in between the problems are moments of pure magic and underneath the darkness lies the hottest and brightest of suns. This was recorded as a ballad but Ted sped it up and gave it a strange George Formby like vibe. A strange pop track and if ever recorded as a ballad could be a big hit.

Handsome Jaques. Ah…memories of sexual shenanigans from ones past mixed with fuzzy framed nostalgia and advice to the youngsters out there. A song I originally wrote for Cilla Black to sing: and it would have been a right rum do if she had.

Dreams Of Rock N Roll Stars. I feel this is the finest song I have written, the centrepiece for the whole album, a song of looking back at the things you never achieved but recorded in such a magical way by Ted that it makes like regret has never tasted so good. Like Joe Meek doing a soundtrack of a Walt Disney film starring Woody Allen and Tony Hancock, and the perfect pop song. I always imagine the video to this being set in a beatnik bar with a party happening or a happening party, with cartoon French men shaking maracas.  

Holy Love. Quite simply a short love song to an old dear friend who I have not seen in many years hoping that he has found the love and companionship he so craved and deserved.

Sixteen. A song celebrating first love and memories of it: all love, romance and soft tinted lust and regret. A chocolate box of a song.

Gedge. Entitled after the singer of The Wedding Present, this is a song filled with both lust self-hate and a yearning to reach the stalking like levels of writing that David Gedge has mastered. This is by far the most lo-fi recording on a very lo-fi album. The vocals I sent to Ted were distorted to hell and I am amazed he was able to salvage it and make it into probably the most difficult song to listen to on the album. But actually one of my favourites on it. 

Lonely Henry. One of the catchiest and lively songs on the album inspired by a lonely old man who used to wander around my hometown of St Helens, who did used to carry a baby doll in his bag for company. The rhythm guitar on this track is quite spectacular, which I do not remember it being this good when I sent it to Ted, so I have the feeling Ted redid it. 

Wrong Country Song. Quite simply, a simple pop song in an indie American pop sort of way. I could imagine the Mouldy Peaches or some other American indie pop act doing it. The sort of song that could have been on the Juno soundtrack. Very simple then, it’s made by Ted’s rather beautiful xylophone solo.

Watching The Garden Grow is maybe the darkest song on the album; a song about being saved unknowingly by your wife and children, dragging you back from the abyss of depression. A sad yet hopeful song.

You can find and purchase the album here

%d bloggers like this: